Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Arrived in Fort Lauderdale

Wow, this sure isn’t what we’re used to. None of the traffic we saw on the Pacific coast prepared us for Fort Lauderdale traffic. It isn’t the commercial traffic so much—there was more of that near Miami and all through the Straits of Florida

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 3:05 p.m. I remember because that’s when we got to the bascule bridge at the 17th Street Causeway, or something like that. The chart says the clearance is 16.7 meters, or 58 feet to us. Our height is about 62 feet, so we had to wait. The bridge opens on the half hour, so our timing was about as bad as it could be. With powerboats and motor yachts maneuvering around us, we did a U-turn to get out of the way. Then John took over the helm and we waited. One sailboat yelled (with hand signals) that the clearance was 55 feet; I yelled back (also with hand signals) that we needed 65. A couple of other sailboats came up behind us and were obviously waiting too. One signaled us to go first when the bridge finally opened, so we proceeded, despite not knowing exactly where we were going.

Our plan was to take a mooring buoy for a few days and save about $20/day. Orinoco is on a mooring, and we spotted her from the channel. A couple of buoys looked empty near her (and everything is near her because it’s a very small mooring field!), so we slowly headed for one. I was at the helm and aimed right at the ball, and then I looked again at the gauges and saw that we weren’t moving. We were grounded about 50 feet from the mooring (shades of trying to get into Sam’s at Tiburon at low tide). One of the other boats who had followed us through the bridge was also headed for the moorings, and they yelled for us to pick one. I yelled back that we were aground. John took the helm and backed us off as they proceeded. As we angled for a different buoy, we watched them ground lightly, and then they yelled that their draft was a half a foot less than ours, and it was still too shallow. About then a dock master’s skiff came by, and we asked them for advice. Their reply was essentially “go for it if you think you can do it; we don’t really know.”

Nice with lots of yelling. I got on the radio to the dock master at the New River Docks, another city facility, to see if they had room for us. While I was awaiting an answer, I heard the other boat, Heart of Texas, arranging to dock at the marina across the way. I’d studied the rates, and they were twice those at New River—too rich for us. When the dock master came back trying to get us into Las Olas, I said, no, thank you, please do you have room at New River or Cooley Landing? After confirming our length, draft, and beam, he said he could fit us in. Whew!

So we meandered our way up the river. I thought from the maps that New River was on the other side of another bascule bridge, and part of it is, but fortunately for us, our spot is before the bridge. It’s fortunate because the bridge doesn’t open during rush hour, and it was rush hour by the time we got there.

Docking was challenging, and John did a great job. First, we had to move our lines from starboard to port. The dock master had said we could dock on either side, and we prefer starboard, but when we saw the spot (it isn’t a slip but just a side tie to the wall), we knew we needed to do a port tie. So John quickly moved all the lines that I’d set up—and fenders too—and then took the helm. I’m pretty good at throwing lines, and I started trying to catch a cleat when we were pretty far out still. Some guy on shore was watching. I was in my bikini top and shorts. As I kept missing and he kept watching, I almost yelled to him to come and catch a line for a better view. Then, just as I caught a cleat, a nice, different guy came to help. It turned out that he (Pete) was from the other sailboat, Superior Grace, a couple of spots up. He and his wife Sue are from Ontario and they’re having their boat shipped to Anacortes because they’re headed for B.C. Boy, have we got some charts and guides for them!

Long story marginally shorter, we’re here now, and despite the temptation to try the moorings at high tide, we aren’t eager to negotiate the narrow channel here more times than absolutely necessary, so we’re going to stay. Thanks to Pete and Sue, we’ve found the grocery store and a nice restaurant/pub. Tomorrow night we’re going to meet Pete and Sue at the pub for two-for-one appetizers and regale them with B.C. stories, followed by a slide show on Solstice. It’s also nice to have Internet again on the boat, although my connection is still marginal until I get my new antenna. This seems like a convenient location, and I, for one, am looking forward to getting to know the area.

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